I’ve been experimenting with more structure to storyasking. No doubt, I’m a bit rusty after a year teaching classes just 1x/wk, and for which I asked the first and only story on the final day of classes! Prior to that, it had been over a year and a half since I regularly asked stories, which itself wasn’t frequent given the oppressive teaching environment—ēheu! Here are supports that have proved quite useful in helping me get back into the swing of things. But first, what makes good storyasking?
Choice, not Chaos!
A lot of teachers try asking too many open-ended questions that leave students at a loss. The easiest stories to ask include some choice, but not so much that everything feels off the rails. Teachers who attempt the latter, bail quickly. The key is finding the right balance between personalization and control. Experienced storyaskers can release a lot of control over to students, mostly because they have a higher chance of being comprehensible, and the students are more mature, knowing what to expect. Less-experienced storyaskers, or those in particular creativity-resistant contexts, like mine, would benefit from having more structure. The following supports have been helpful in reawakening imagination, something all great stories benefit from, and which most grade students have forgotten about/lost by the time they get to high school, sadly. Give them a try…
On Saturday at RIFLA, I presented some updates to two NTPRS 2018 presentations. After the conference, I made even more updates based on what we discussed, including MGMT issues each setup decision addresses. I also had the chance to see two presenters.
Signals Watching Matthew got me thinking: Have I been using signals?! In the past, we’ve had something for stop, and slow down. Matthew showed us one for faster, but I’ve never had the problem of speaking too slowly! Right now students just raise their hand. I might want to encourage the use of signals more.
Story Cubes I’ve used these, and written about using them as more of a whole-class brainstorm and input activity. Still, I can now see an additional use for them with “unlocking creativity.” For example, I could roll two cubes under a document camera, and ask if any word comes to mind that could fill in the next story detail I’m asking for. This could be real good. I’ve been noticing how much better an either/or question is (e.g. students choose, or are inspired a third possibility they otherwise wouldn’t have come up with on their own). Matthew’s version was to provide a paper with 9 prompts (e.g. where, when, how many, problem, etc.), distribute the Story Cubes, then ask students about the image they rolled on the cube as well as what story detail they wanted it to fulfill. In his experience, this little bit of structure has helped quite a lot. Matthew also gathered the cubes as rolled, and snapped a pic of all 9. Essentially, this is the class story depicted, which could then be used as a Picture Talk, or some kind of story retell activity.
“Oooooooooh” Matthew shared the 2016 video of Blaine Ray teaching English in Brazil, and the first thing I noticed was how every time Blaine made a story statement, he cued the “oooohs” from the class. If I had been trained to do this, I’ve certainly forgotten. I like how it kept students engaged on even the most basic of sentences! I think I’ll give this a try.
The sēx game! Viviana captured our attention with a MovieTalk in Portugues. Afterwards, she shared a host of input-based followup activities. I had forgotten about the game Keith Toda shared. In groups of 3-4, students get a text, as well as a 6-sided die and 1 pencil. They take turns rolling until someone gets a 6, yells out that number in the target language (TL), and begins translating sentences from the text. They continue to do so while other team members keep rolling. Once someone else gets a 6, they grab the pencil from who was writing, and play continues. First to finish wins, or give points for understood sentences and highest points wins.
Do something to get you drawings from each student (e.g. Listen & Draw, or Silent T/F Reading).
Project & describe as two students compete to indicate the correct drawing
Silent T/F Reading drawings are ready to go w/ 2 pics on one page, but you could place any two drawings side-by-side under a document camera. Oh, and I know a gal who knows a guy so my doc cam from last year mysteriously showed up again. If you don’t have a document camera, you could scan, and maybe crop/arrange two images side-by-side in Paint or something. Either way, this is easy prep.
Although any two drawings will do, I’ve found that the challenge level is best when you can describe things that are in both drawings, reserving any difference for after some input. Hence, Silent T/F Readings are a great option. Otherwise, if one drawing is a cat, and the other a building, there’s only so much input you could provide before the correct drawing is immediately recognized. Also, I had students yell out “left/right” in the target language and raise the same hand (instead of getting in the way of the board).
Also, this is an excellent way for teachers to become more comfortable speaking Latin. Speaking slowly builds the suspense as students intently listen for clues about the drawings. Even a think-aloud provides input (e.g. “nesciō quid in arbore sit” or “vidētur mihi…” or “in pictūrīs nōn sunt…”).
Last Friday, I suddenly found myself without a document camera after a Listen & Draw with our first One Word Image (OWI). Realizing my error, I scrambled to snap a pic of just one student drawing, send it to my email, sign in, download and orient, turn on the projector, etc. all just to discuss student artwork. No bueno. Not only did I lose a few kids during the shuffle, but I avoided repeating the process, meaning we looked at just one student’s work. No bueno mas. With a document camera, we used to look at several different drawings easily, keeping interest high throughout class. That absence was obvious, and I was unhappy with how things went. Still, I was determined to use the stack of hilarious drawings somehow…
The Super Clear Cognate list is up to 475! Aside from making posters of a small selection of them to have more readily available to use during class, I’ve forgotten major plans I had for the growing resource. Late July, I posted the following to Latin Best Practices Facebook group:
My latest plan is to browse the list before writing any texts (e.g. editing class stories, adapting ancient texts, etc.), and just adding at least 1 cognate—maybe per part of speech (while also REMEMBERING that adverb forms exist).
– Have dialogue? Toss in a cognate instead of “dicit!”
– Describing size? Check for more interesting adjectives!
– Introducing a new character? Give them a role!
Yeah…that didn’t really happen. Granted, I did use compacta for something small, but I haven’t made this part of my workflow of typing up the day’s events in class to read the next day. So, despite writing 1300 total words for learners by second week, I wonder if I could’ve been providing more varied input as we focus on those frequent verbs. The good news is that one week won’t have disastrous negative effects, which means I can implement the new workflow right away.
In addition to the cognates, consider what you can add after every sentence. Not only does this increase exposure to vocabulary, but also creates more of an image. Instead of moving onto the next sentence, action, though, or event…
…could you describe something you just wrote?
…could you restate the whole message from a different perspective, then add another detail (known, or possible), like how an action was done?
…could you add a nōn sentence?
…could you give background motivation for what just occurred based on character traits, or what they like/dislike?
The answer to all those is probably “yes.” Don’t get carried away with bogging down the text with super long sentences, but do consider how you might elaborate and expand the input without introducing any new words beyond those super clear cognates. This is one way to deliberately spiral (i.e. recycle) vocabulary that has already been used.
This year, I’m very on top of providing learners with texts. Each class section has been reading at least a half page of Latin every class, which I’ve also been able to print (all during my planning periods!), and give to learners as reading options at home. These texts also double as what some schools call “Do Now” or “Activators” as the first thing we read in class.
The texts include somewhere between 50-70 total words every day. Since I always print extra copies, I’ve shown learners where to go to get new texts if they’ve already read the ones from their own class. Why would they? Well, the texts from each section has different content written with frequent vocabulary that all learners understand. For those who have read all the texts available from other classes, that’s about 1300 total words after just one week! It’s worth noting that almost all of the content is the product of Card Talk, and a single Picture Talk. These are extremely low prep; the work is just typing up what happened in class, made even easier when doing a Write & Discuss at the end of class. Also, in typing up today’s events, I just stumbled upon a way to double the input from any X Talk (e.g. Card, Picture, Calendar, Item, etc.)…
Extending the concept of parallel texts to Card Talk is an easy way to double the input. Say the day’s prompt is “draw up to 4 things you don’t like, and circle them.” In class, 5-10min could easily be spent comparing two learners, their drawings, and the thoughts of others.
Now, instead of typing up what everyone heard and learned in class, review other drawings and type THOSE up. Project, and/or read using your favorite input-based strategy and activity, and you will have doubled the input in a more communicative and compelling way (vs. reading content that learners already know).
My new room down the hall is just about set up. I’ve kept things from last year that really helped, ditched things that didn’t, and introduced some new things I felt I was missing.
Taking a cue from the diversity-positive practices Anna Gilcher and Rachelle Adams shared at NTPRS a couple years ago, I now have a bunch of qualities at the ready. I’m looking forward to having deeper characteristics other than the baaaaaasic small animal that’s smart and pretty. We can do better than that, right? So, the next time we ask develop a character, either by itself during One Word Image (OWI), or in a story via Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS), I’ll ask if they’re sociable, or quiet…honest, or curious…observant, or courageous, etc. Here are my quālitātēs: